Sunday, February 17, 2008

Save the Victoria Pool Society on radio show, 2/17/08

How to think WARM & SUNNY thoughts on a very frigid February morning. Former Saratoga Mayor, J. Michael O'Connell, interviews Andrew Jennings and Louise Goldstein on his weekly radio show, "The Capital District Forum " on Star 101.3 FM at 8AM on Sunday, february 17, 2008.
Discussion is centered on the latest on the Victoria Pool and Saratoga Spa State Park.

Friday, February 15, 2008

crown jewel of racing to shine brighter than ever

Friday, February 15, 2008

Posted on Thu, Feb 14, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
Leaving the starting gate of a 'new era' of racing
By JIM KINNEY, The Saratogian

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno talks about the passage of the new NYRA franchise, flanked by State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, left, and Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson. (RICK GARGIULO/The Saratogian)SARATOGA SPRINGS — State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno congratulated others and was congratulated himself Thursday when he held a news conference to discuss NYRA’s new deal with the state to run Saratoga Race Course and two downstate tracks.

“It truly is a new day,” Bruno, R-Brunswick, said at the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, across the street from the Race Course. “A new era.”

The deal gives NYRA a new board of directors, an oversight board and an advisory committee for each track. Saratoga’s advisory board will have jurisdiction over capital improvements at the track. It will have five members each appointed by the mayor of Saratoga Springs, the county Board of Supervisors and NYRA itself.

The state will also give NYRA $105 million to get the racing firm out of bankruptcy and tide it over until money-making video lottery terminals are up and running at Aqueduct.

Horse owner Daniel Stone said NYRA has been in turmoil over the past few years and the new deal will help. But NYRA still needs more income to stay out of bankruptcy. That money will have to come from VLTs and Off-track betting. The OTBs themselves have to be reorganized.

“The OTB issue is still out there,” Stone, whose wife Carole Stone is on NYRA’s oversight board, said. “But today we are happy.”

Bruno said if it were up to him he would have included VLTs at Belmont as well as Aqueduct in this deal, along with a provision to merge off-track betting operations with NYRA under one leadership.

“We didn’t get there,” Bruno said.

City Accounts Commissioner John Franck said he’s also concerned that the city and county continue to receive a share of VLT revenue from Saratoga Gaming and Raceway. Currently, the localities get $5.1 million a year in VLT money: $3.8 million to the city and $1.3 million to the county.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposed budget eliminates that money from the budget.

“We’ll have to fight for it,” Franck said. “But it isn’t going up. I’ve accepted that our share of that money won’t go up.”

NYRA will continue to pay property taxes both at Saratoga Springs and downstate. NYRA currently pays $500,000 a year in property taxes to the county, city and school district.

Martin Kinsella, executive director of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding Fund said the deal works for the breeding industry, a big employer and user of farmland in Saratoga County, because the breeding fund is guaranteed 1.5 percent of VLT revenues.

“It basically goes back to the agreement we had four years ago,” he said.

That agreement never went into effect because development of VLTs at Aqueduct stopped as NYRA dealt with financial and legal troubles.

Reach Jim Kinney at or 518-583-8729 ext.216.

Video: Sen. Bruno's remarks during the press conference

Video: Bruno fields questions about the deal

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

doomsday scenario for track

Posted on Tue, Feb 12, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
Scott: Doomsday scenario arrives in New York
By JEFF SCOTT, From off the pace
In recent weeks, as NYRA’s franchise and its first short-term extension were about to expire, it still didn’t seem possible that racing in New York would be shut down. There was simply too much at stake for everyone involved.

Based on statements issued Monday by NYRA, however, it now appears a shutdown is all but inevitable. If a new long-term agreement is not reached in the meantime, NYRA will suspend racing following Wednesday’s card at Aqueduct.

The delay in getting the franchise issue settled has primarily been because of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s opposition to recommendations put forward by Gov. Eliot Spitzer (and approved by NYRA) last September. Protracted negotiations resulted in a new proposed bill that was reviewed by NYRA officials over the weekend.

On Monday, NYRA Chairman C. Steven Duncker expressed dissatisfaction with the new legislation. According to Duncker, the proposed bill “does not provide the proper business model and economic terms that permits (sic) NYRA to emerge from bankruptcy, nor does it correct the broken business model of thoroughbred racing in New York, a broken model that can only worsen and further imperil the industry under the legislation currently proposed.”

Since everyone agrees that the business model under which NYRA has operated no longer works — if in fact it ever did — one would hope any new franchise agreement would be sure to provide a more acceptable framework. NYRA officials obviously don’t think that has happened. And since they’re the ones who would have to live with the thing, their opinion has to be respected.

NYRA also has to be careful not to sign on to an agreement which, in effect, might set it up to fail. Because there are plenty of people who would like to see that happen, beginning with those who have been associated with rival bidders on the franchise.

Which brings us back to Senator Bruno, who has been an outspoken critic of Spitzer’s recommendations (and NYRA) from the beginning. But what exactly is behind his opposition?

To what degree has Bruno’s stance been based on his ongoing feud with the governor and a desire to put his own stamp on the franchise process? Why was Bruno so adamant about splitting the racing aspect of the franchise among different operators — an idea opposed by virtually everyone — even as NYRA emerged as the only entity with a serious interest in the job?

Finally, what connection, if any, does Bruno have with Capital Play Inc, one of the

four original bidders on the franchise?

Excelsior Racing and Empire Racing, the other two non-NYRA bidders, have effectively ceased to exist. The Australia-based Capital Play, however, is still very much on the scene and (according to Bruno) is one of two finalists being considered to run the proposed slots operation at Aqueduct. Bruno’s son Kenneth, by the way, is reportedly employed as a lobbyist for — you guessed it — Capital Play.

Capital Play’s website includes bold claims about all the wonderful things it would do for New York racing if given the chance. All of this racing talk, however, is strictly for show. If the Aqueduct slots were taken off the table, those Aussies would be on the next plane back to Sydney.

One of the scariest aspects of this whole sorry situation is that if no agreement is reached, and racing is indeed halted, no one is sure what would happen next. With NYRA no longer having the legal right to operate racing, authority would pass to an oversight board dominated by political appointees from the Pataki administration.

Any attempt to continue racing under another operator would be countered by NYRA’s contention that it, not the State of New York, actually owns the tracks. The matter then would disappear into the courts, perhaps for years, with racing forced into indefinite hiatus.

This doomsday scenario, of course, is something no one who really cares about horse racing wants to see happen. At this late hour, however, it may take a miracle to keep the process from being set in motion.

Jeff Scott writes about horse racing Tuesday in The Saratogian. He may be reached at

Monday, February 04, 2008

It's getting scary out there Folks

print story
NYRA trustee quits, blasting Bruno

By JAMES M. ODATO, Staff writer
Click byline for more stories by writer.
Last updated: 11:12 a.m., Friday, February 1, 2008

ALBANY -- Saratoga Springs lost its representative on the New York Racing Association board today when Adirondack Trust President Charles Wait quit as a trustee, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for not serving the best interests of racing and the community.
Wait said he could not stay quiet about his frustration with Bruno's refusal to go along with an agreement between Gov. Eliot Spitzer and NYRA for an extension of the racing franchise. He suggested that racing could go dark in Saratoga, as well as at Aqueduct and Belmont, if Bruno continues his demands for new elements beyond those agreed to in a September deal with Spitzer.

Bruno has blasted that agreement because it was worked out privately and without legislators' input. He has sought assurances that NYRA would be held accountable. He also wants to shrink the size of the NYRA board and increase the number of trustees appointed by the governor, Senate and Assembly.

"I believe that it is important for Saratogians to understand that we are facing a crisis in racing," Wait said in news release. "I know that Senator Bruno is powerful and popular and I know that criticizing him in public may bring retribution."

In an interview, Wait said he had to resign to make his feelings known because trustees shouldn't be acting independently, particularly when they criticize the leading Republican in New York. A trustee for 23 years, Wait was a NYRA stockholder appointed to the board by the racing association itself.

"It is also my opinion that there is no plausible reason for the New York state Senate to continue to delay ratification of the memorandum of understanding first proposed by Gov. Spitzer," he said. "I urge my senator, Sen. Bruno, to use his power and popularity to end the discord and uncertainty clouding the future of the Saratoga race meet. I urge him to encourage the Senate to agree to the memorandum of understanding. I urge him to safeguard the most important engine of economic prosperity in his district."

Representatives of Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Spitzer have been trying to negotiate a resolution for months.

A Feb. 13 deadline looms and NYRA can't wait much longer before it runs out of money and will have to take actions such as cessation of racing, Wait said. NYRA would continue to sue to prove it owns the track properties, which it must clarify to either sell real estate or borrow against it to pay off more than $300 million in debt, he said.

The racing association entered bankruptcy court almost 14 months ago to shield itself from creditors, including the state of New York.

Bruno's office had no immediate response.

Wait's resignation leaves the NYRA board with 23 members.

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2008, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.


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